Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Justice" by Carey Harrison

Posted By on Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 12:30 PM

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This novel tells a very simple story: a mother returns to Italy after World War II, seeking justice for her son Vittorio, who was killed in the Holocaust. We learn this in the first paragraph. One man is responsible for Vittorio's death: Renzo Cipriano, the police chief who deported him. The book is, in a sense, a murder mystery, where the crime is the extermination of the Jews.

Much of Justice is about waiting: waiting without knowing why, waiting for an unknown deliverance. (Miri, the mother, seeks revenge but hasn't chosen a particular punishment.) Justice only comes to those who nobly wait.

On one level, the book is about the relationship between doctors and nurses. (Miri is a nurse, Renzo a doctor.) It's also about pignolia nuts, a food freely offered by the hills of Italy.

I would call Justice a "geographical love story" — the love between a writer and a landscape. Harrison expertly evokes the Calabria of 1948, a place trying to return to its ancestral sleep, but already bit by the vampire of modernity.

Carey knows what is a novel. Many of the works of fiction today are either genre or facile satires (the latter being the "hot" ones). This is an actual novel; in other words, the last line perfectly completes the logic of the book. The abstract title suggests Carey's ambition — to explain all justice, for all time. And he succeeds.

I just realized: "Vittorio" means "victory"!

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